Just like your iPhone, the Mars Curiosity Rover needs occasional software updates. NASA recently sent a software upgrade to the rover and updated its ability to take better photos of itself by giving it expanded use of its robotic arm, which will also come in handy when the rover starts climbing up Mt. Sharp.
Curiosity isn’t taking selfies for its Facebook profile, though: the rover will be taking more photos of its wheels to keep an eye on any damage that the vehicle sustains during its mission. Back in November, a photo showed some damage to its left front wheel. NASA wants to keep track of how the terrain of Mars is affecting that wheel, along with the rest of the rover’s hardware. Although this damage won’t impair Curiosity’s ability to drive across the planet, the information gathered from studying these photos will help scientists create rovers in the future less susceptible to such wear and tear.
This software update is the third of its kind that Curiosity has received, including a large upgrade that it received shortly after landing and another a few months ago. The upgrade itself took over a week, which might sound like a long time, even compared to the latest iOS update. However, you have to consider that this update happened across nearly 250 million miles. Obviously, there’s also a careful process involved that creates a backup to restore software if something goes wrong during an update, which happened last month when this upgrade was first attempted. Fortunately, this time, everything went smoothly.
Curiosity is now headed across an area of sharp rocks to Mars’ Mt. Sharp, but may take a short break soon so it can take more selfies of its wheel damage.